Constables of the Moro Constabulary



    The enlisted men of the Moro Constabulary were recognizable by their khaki uniform with red trim, wrapped puttees, and a distinctive red fez. The rimless fez permitted the Muslims to touch their foreheads to the ground during daily prayers. Although issued shoes, by choice and habit, they nearly always went barefoot. At their inception in the Fall of 1903 , each private and corporal was armed with the Springfield Model 1889 Trapdoor, .45-.70-caliber, single-shot carbine, which fired black-powder cartridges. This was replaced by a new model of the .30-.40 Krag carbine in the Fall of 1907. Each man also carried the lethal barong, a double-edged short sword about 18 inches long, that was used both for brush-clearing and close combat. Several men in each unit carried sticks of dynamite for use as demolitions or the equivalent of hand grenades.

    The basic operational unit was a seven-man squad, six privates led by one corporal. Seven squads constituted a company, led by two officers, usually a 1st Lieutenant and a 2nd or 3rd Lieutenant, and two sergeants, 53 men in total. They were accustomed to traveling light, fast, and self-contained, with only a bedroll, minimal rations (buying and consuming food from local sources), and 100-200 rounds of ammunition carried around their waists in cartridge belts. A march of thirty miles or more in one day, barefoot, was common.

    Initially recruitment was conducted through the datus or imams, who often sent their most troublesome followers or slaves as "volunteers." Paradoxically, they seemed to make the best raw material. The Constabulary uniform and membership accorded these young men a personal status and identity that they had never enjoyed in their villages. Even though meager by American standards, the pay was good, and dependable. Their bodies were built up through good food, and the demanding training and discipline toughened them physically and mentally. Those who showed any signs of not being up to snuff were mercilessly weeded out and sent back to their villages. The quality of the officer corps that led them was outstanding. Misconduct and corruption were not tolerated. Promotion and rewards were achieved strictly by merit. It was little wonder then that the Constabulary was repaid in dogged loyalty and exceptional courage. Often the organization became their new family and its officers their surrogate datus. Before long there was never a shortage of able recruits applying on their own volition.


Left to Right: Pvt. Sula, Cotabato, 1905; Sgt. Malaco, Lanao, 1911 - Only man awarded Medal of Valor twice; 1st Sgt. Maluan, Zamboanga, 1914.